Gibson’s When Rockers Cover Dylan points out that the man has provided a gold mine of material for other artists.
It lists some great examples, some interesting analysis, and a variation on the “be true to the original, but make it your own” mantra: “completely restructure it until it sounds like you.” Dunno about the “completely restructure it” part, but “sounds like you” is right.
The examples include:
Hendrix – Watchtower
Johnny Winter – Highway 61 Revisited
George Harrison – If Not For You
The Byrds – Mr. Tambourine Man
GNR – Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door
I guess the winner is All Along the Watchtower, because covers by Hendrix, Dave Matthews and U2 all get a mention (I would add, BTW, a great live version by Neil Young from Dylan’s 30th Anniversary Tribute concert).
In terms of the “be true to the original, but make it your own” cliché
- Hendrix and Winter take the prize for outright theft
- The Byrds and George provide the best examples by doing a straight cover that nevertheless sounds like themselves
- I wish no one – including Clapton – had covered Knockin’ on Heavens’ Door. Dylan’s version is unbeatable.
But that’s maybe the only such song on the list. I’ve always felt that a good song had a life of it’s own, and Dylan has provided a bunch of examples. He might have created them – or opened a door through which they entered our lives – but once they arrived, they kind of became everybody’s songs.